The Vodafone Warriors made it three dominant wins in a row to start the season - and leapt to the top of the ladder - in shutting out the Wests Tigers 36-0 in their Intrust Super Premiership encounter at Campbelltown Sports Stadium on Saturday.
It also marks the third consecutive heavy defeat for the Wests Tigers, who are certainly competing in each game, but are leaking too many points at critical times.
Despite the wet and windy conditions, Vodafone Warriors captain Mason Lino had the game in his control all match, while fullback Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad was a devastating as ever in his first outing of the year.
A beautiful left-to-right shift opened the scoring, with Lino and Nicoll-Klokstad combining to create space for Junior Pauga, who put on a deadly step to beat his opponent and stroll over the line.
Wests Tigers hooker Matt Ballin went incredibly close when he darted from dummy half on the last tackle but only one set later the Vodafone Warriors were back on attack thanks to a Tigers error. The visitors capitalised on the situation through Matt Allwood, who took advantage of defenders trying to adjust from the previous error.
The Tigers then had multiple try-scoring chances but were unable to execute before a Lino 40/20 put the Vodafone Warriors straight back into optimal field position.
They didn’t score from the ensuing set but they did not have to wait long when Semisi Fotu took advantage of backtracking markers to force his way over the line from dummy half, increasing the lead tp 16-0.
The Tigers did themselves no favours by giving away a penalty with less than two minutes to go in the half and Lino took full advantage of the situation, kicking a pin-point grubber for Pauga to dive on and secure his double.
Just minutes into the second half, the Vodafone Warriors extended their lead to 26-0 when Daniel Palavi caught a face-ball, spun out of a tackle and muscled his way over the line adjacent to the posts.
Nicoll-Klokstad struck once again when he danced around various Tigers defenders and accelerated through a gap to score in the same spot as the previous try.
Sam Cook put an amazing punt downfield that fell one blade of grass short of the dead ball line to force a drop-out but the Tigers defence held strong on this occasion to prevent another try.
A stroke of luck pushed the score out to 36-0, when Isaiah Papali'i jumped on a loose ball that had deflected off a defender following an Allwood-forced dropout. That completed the scoring giving the Vodafone Warriors the perfect start to the campaign after their earlier wins over Newcastle (52-24) and Canterbury-Bankstown (36-22).
Match details | Campbelltown Sports Ground, Sydney
Wests Tigers 0.
Vodafone Warriors 36 (Junior Pauga 2, Matt Allwood, Semisi Fotu, Daniel Palavi, Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, Isaiah Papali'i tries; Mason Lino 4 conversions).
Halftime: 22-0 Vodafone Warriors.
Vodafone Warriors | Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad; Junior Pauga, Semisi Fotu, Matt Allwood, Matiu Stone-Dunn; Sam Cook, Mason Lino (c); Patrick Sipley, Jazz Tevaga, Toafofoa Sipley; Ofa Ogden, Isaiah Papali’i; James Bell. Interchange: Tevin Arona, Daniel Palavi, Ligi Sao, Reece Charlie.